HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — As shots rang out inside the STEM school Tuesday, dozens of students started running for their lives.
Dozens took shelter in a shopping complex about a half mile away, where staff at the Rock Bottom Brewery was just finishing up the lunch rush.
“They just kept coming in, and coming in, and coming in,” says bartender Julie Finkelstein. “And I made a joke to a guest at the bar like, ‘What’s the field trip going on here?'”
But general manager Jimmy Gibson realized something was not right.
“You could tell by the look on their faces that something wasn’t right,” he says. “They were frantic, not knowing what to do, some of them were crying.”
Finkelstein quickly jumped into action, calming the students down in a back room.
Staff brought the kids food and drinks as Finkelstein made a list of parents phone numbers to contact.
Unfortunately, she’s no stranger to school shootings.
“I moved here about a year ago from South Florida,” she says. “I was a teacher at JP Taravella High School, which is a sister school for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
Last February, 17 people were killed at that high school in one of the worst school shootings in history.
“I made the decision to quit teaching at that moment, because I no longer felt safe in the classroom,” she says.
Finkelstein moved to Highlands Ranch, hoping to escape the painful memories in Florida.
She says she was glad she was able to help students in a similar tragedy Tuesday night.
“Luck. Dumb luck,” she says. “I knew what they were going through. I could see what they were going through, and I’m glad I could help.”